Row, Row, Row Your Boat


Watch as this guy rows his way across a river in a John W. Thomason drawing. This gif was a huge hit on Tumblr and has received over 1,700 notes. We were also featured on Tumblr Radar because of the gif. Needless to say, We were honored and surprised.

See the whole (non-gif) collection at : John W. Thomason drawings

Happy Birthday to John W. Thomason!

 self portrait

The namesake for our Special Collections department was born on this day  in 1893. John W. Thomason, Jr. was born into a prominent family in Huntsville, Texas. He was the eldest of nine children. His forebears were doctors, plantation owners, and military officers. A love of the land was no doubt a major part of Thomason’s ethos; had not World War I led him into his military career, the life of a southern squire with cultured avocations would have satisfied his artistic and literary inclinations.

After several years of higher education at Southwestern University, Sam Houston Normal Institute, and the University of Texas, interspersed with brief stints of teaching school, Thomason persuaded his mother to endorse a year of study at the Art Student’s League in New York in order to develop his obvious talent. He then returned to Houston to teach in a private school. A family friend, Marcellus E. Foster (“Mefo”) who was editor and owner of the Houston Chronicle offered him a job as a reporter, affording him a boost to his writing career.

When the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, that same day Thomason crossed the street to the Rice Hotel to enlist in the Marines. The years of indecision were over, for Thomason had found his niche. He had a distinguished career as a Marine officer (his book, Fix Bayonets!, is still a revered work to Marines and World War I enthusiasts). His military postings took him to Cuba, Nicaragua, and China, as well as to Washington, D.C. and some shorter assignments.

The exotic locales are reflected in the vivid writings that made him one of the best-known authors of this day; he is also immediately recognizable as a talented artist by the sketches that adorn his numerous books, as well as books of other authors who sought out his illustrative skills. Colonel Thomason died March 12, 1944.


Salt Winds and Gobi Dust


Salt Winds and Gobi Dust draft cover


Final cover of Salt Winds and Gobi Dust

Salt Winds and Gobi Dust was a collection of short stories by Col. John W. Thomason Jr. who is the namesake of our Special Collections department. The short stories were inspired by his time spent in China and Central America.

The top image is a draft of the cover artwork that would be used in the 1st edition of Salt Winds and Gobi Dust. You can compare it to the final cover below it.

Notice any big changes?

Shoegazing at ducks


John W. Thomason loved to draw military officers and ducks in his free time, so I combined the two. This officer seems to notice the duck at his feet.

See the whole (non-gif) collection at : John W. Thomason drawings

World War I Artifact Collection (1903-2005)

WWIb 001

Picture of 143rd. Infantry Co.F 36th. Div. Huntsville Texas

The World War I artifact collection (1909-2005; 75 items) consists of materials and ephemera collected and on display relating to Texas and the United States during World War I.  The items in the World War I collection include soldier sketches by John W. Thomason, photographs and certificates owned by Walker County residents, United States bonds and recruitment advertisements, and souvenir postcards.  Many items in the display relate to the numerous World War I books belonging to the Thomason Room’s main collection.

View a detailed finding aid of this collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page and see an item level listing of these materials.